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The Right Wing is Framing the Discussion Again

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Jul. 15th, 2009 | 07:34 am

So long as the country talks in the terms of self reliance and independence, we're not going to see substantive change in health care, education, or the scope of the community compact.  The allure of free men (sic) creating a personal paradise from their own intelligence and sweat is too powerful to overcome with mere logic.  There are too many catchy slogans about "tax and spend" and other off-point sound bites to alter the course of the country by continuing to talk in the terms created by Republicans and Libertarians.

Instead, I believe the President and others interested in strengthening the wider community need to take up the challenge and talk about the type of society we want to build based on the type of people we are.

We need to act more like a compassionate society where we say we want our most well off people to help those who cannot effectively fend for themselves.  Empathy is in, and Welfare Queen stories are Ronald-Reagan-like fun-fact distractions.  In fact, they need to be challenged as irrelevant to our moral belief that we are in this life together and want to help each other out.

Rather than sniveling and trying to minimize proposed tax increases on people making more than $1 million (or, $250,000, or whatever), we need to be bold and honest. Congratulate these successful people on their work, and say to them that we need their help to create the society we want to live in. 

Look, Bill Gates, America needs 3/4 of what you make over $1,000,000 so that we can let the Amazon.com worker who is shipping boxes of Windows to your clients get appropriate chemotherapy for his cancer.  I'll show you, Bill, how the medical program is efficient and cost conscious.  You're monetary contribution is being well used, and thank you for being such a huge contributor to our community's well being.

I frankly don't think Bill Gates -- or many entrepreneurs -- are going to stop working because of the tax rate.  They are not going to stop hiring people or doing whatever is right for their business if their personal income is taxed.  More importantly, asking them to chip in is the right moral thing for us to do.  And, if we consistently describe the taxes as a contribution to the American Community, I think we have a better chance of acceptance and compliance.  Or, if the well-off rebel, and everything breaks down, we know we belong back in the caves owned by Ayn Rand, Dick Chaney, and other appealing egoists.

This is the true debate. I am my brother's keeper. We are stronger and better people when we help one another.

Or, as the Cains of the right suggest, should government exist only to provide civil order?

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Comments {8}

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from: abqdan
date: Jul. 15th, 2009 05:14 pm (UTC)
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Very high taxes on the rich only work if you lock the doors. The UK did this back in the 70s under similar circumstances. First, tax attornies got very rich, very quickly. Second, the richest (and often very talented) individuals left the country and went to countries that didn't have such high tax rates. The media termed it the "Brain Drain" from Britain.

I'm not sure what the highest tax rate should be, but 75% sounds too high. Maybe 50%. I think once I start giving the government more money than I'm keeping, I'd lose interest in supporting the government and start looking for a way out. And in the US, we have the added complication of state taxes on top of federal taxes.

Of course, a brave government would (as Obama once suggested, but shows no signs of doing) abandon the arcane tax code completely. They'd levy a flat tax on everything. Last time I saw an analysis, doing that would yield the same income for the federal government at a flat 15% than we get now. That's because all the shelters, avoidance, and allowances disappear. In the process, we put a bunch of attornies and IRS workers out of work, but that's the price of progress. There would be no incentive for the rich to hide assets if the tax rate was uncomplicated and low.

I draw a distinction between high earnings, and irresponsible bonuses. I think that Wall Street has a long history of irresponsible behavior in not tying remuneration to performance; but that doesn't mean I would support extraordinary tax rates to penalize those people. We need more fundamental change in the way that businesses are regulated.

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Galen of the Ozdachs Pack

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from: ozdachs
date: Jul. 15th, 2009 05:54 pm (UTC)
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Sure, let's talk about what "very high taxes" means. Maybe a 75% Federal marginal rate; maybe 50% Federal. But, let's also mention that these are contributions to the common well being, not just "taxes". This is a sharing of abundance which is both appreciated and celebrated.

As for flat taxes, the Devil is in the details. 15% of what? What about $1m in investment losses for someone with a $1 million salary, for example. I think "flat taxes" sounds a lot better than any flat-tax plan.

And, no. For my proposal, I make no distinction between high earnings and irresponsible bonuses. This is a contribution to society and is not punitive. The issue of "irrepsonsible" levels of compensation is another whole moral topic.

Sure, if you don't want to live a fairer society because of your personal financial situation, you can move. The US doesn't have high taxes compared to the rest of the world and would not be in that league after even a substantial increase in the progressive income tax. I don't think there will be a brain drain. And, I am willing to face down the brain-drain fear because I can sleep better with that hypothetical possibility than I can knowing that people currently are going bankrupt, hungry, insecure, and ill because of our too-low demands on ourselves.

Making a social compact with each other is American. It is not Socialism nor any other ism. It might be Christian, but no more than it is also Islamic, Jewish, or other tribe-ish.

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